Mother of 6 goes from homelessness to career in construction

Eileen Gutierrez is taking a big step from homelessness to a career in construction.

Eileen Gutierrez is taking a big step from homelessness to a career in construction.

"It's life changing in all aspects," she said.

Gutierrez is one of eight people who fell on hard times and is getting back up.

They all graduated Friday from the construction leadership training program run by the Oakland Salvation Army, free of charge to the students.

Gutierrez said she left a bad marriage last year and ended up living in homeless shelters with her children. Then she found construction training.

"As a mother of six I can show them it is possible to stand up for yourself and move on," she said.

Students spend weeks learning framing, hammering, drilling and cutting.

"I like the electrician part. It is kind of hard, but I am still going to work on it," she said. 

The training is done by general contractors.

"They get the basics of carpentry and electrical. They get an electrical training card. And an OSHA N Card, which allows them to walk on just about any construction site and go to work," said Mark Talbot of Associated Builders and Contractors. 

The students will be walking into a construction field sorely in need of workers. The Associated Builders and Contractors estimates the shortage is at half a million workers statewide.

That's good news for Santos Torres.

He told us he ran with the wrong crowd, served a year in jail for grand theft auto and now, like his fellow graduates, wants a fresh start.

"It's a new life. It really is. Got to put the old life to rest and move foreward," said Torres.

The students hope to be out on a construction site working within the next few weeks. Starting pay is $18-$25 an hour.